Herald Sun - Motoring - - CARSGUIDE CONFIDENTIAL - Twit­ter: @JoshuaDowl­ing

LAST week we pre­dicted a fierce ute bat­tle was hot­ting up. Turns out, it hap­pened much sooner than ex­pected, and you might be able to drive a bar­gain in some show­rooms now rather than later.

Do­ing fur­ther re­search on the three utes tested for this week’s cover story — the up­dated Ford Ranger, the all­new Toy­ota HiLux and the mildly made-over Mazda BT-50 — we hit the pave­ment and mys­tery-shopped a few deal­ers.

First stop Mazda, the slow­est seller among these three, even if the sales staff are sharp.

They knew the BT-50 misses out on some of the new gad­gets and re­fine­ments in the Ford Ranger, but were quick to high­light their price ad­van­tage (although neatly avoid­ing ques­tions about why the Mazda was up to 50 per cent dearer to ser­vice than the me­chan­i­cally iden­ti­cal Ford).

Ford deal­ers were help­ful, although bor­der­ing on over­con­fi­dent. They know they have a good truck and didn’t ap­pear to be in the mood for hag­gling.

The big­gest sur­prise came when we went into Toy­ota show­rooms. They were al­ready do­ing deals even though the HiLux was barely a week old.

“If you buy to­day we can do some dis­count,” said the keen young sales guy amid a show­room full of HiLuxes with “sold” signs in their win­dows.

So, a warn­ing to Ford: you still need to win cus­tomers even if you have the bet­ter truck.

And if you’re in the mar­ket for a Toy­ota, tell the dealer you’ve been crawl­ing over a Ranger. That seemed to get them in the mood to talk a deal once we pointed out what the new HiLux was miss­ing.

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